In this paper I will answer the question, “How do differences in these statues represent differences in the Renaissance and Baroque styles,” referencing Bernini’s David versus Michelangelo’s David. The sculptures are drastically different from one another. Each one is unique in its own certain way.
Michelangelo’s reputation as a sculptor was established when he carved his David at the edge of twenty-seven from a single piece of relatively unworkable marble. Unlike other David’s that were sculpted around the same time period, Michelangelo’s is not shown after conquering his enemy. Instead, he is depicted before his battle with Goliath and not after the giant’s defeat (Wikipedia, 2006). Cast over his shoulder is David’s sling, and the stone is clutched in his right hand, his veins in anticipation of the fight. Michelangelo’s David depicts the ideal youth who has just reached manhood and is capable of great physical and intellectual feats, which is part of the Classical tradition. Michelangelo’s sculpture is closed in form and all the elements move firmly around a central axis.
Bernini’s David, which is notably different from Michelangelo’s, did not emulate Michelangelo’s posturing adolescent. Bernini’s hero is full-grown and fully engaged-both physically and psychologically-as he takes aim and twists his tensed, muscular body a split second before slinging the stone, grasped in his left hand. “The right side shows David’s movements; his stride is almost a leap as he aims his sling. Seen from the front the pose is frozen, just one second before the fatal shot, and seen diagonally there is a rhythmic balance between movement and pose (Web Gallery of Art, 2006).” David stands alone, but Goliath is simplicity envisioned directly behind the viewer. “The viewer is almost prompted to move from the path of the projectile. The space in front of the statue becomes a part of the concept (Sculpture Gallery, 2006).” Present in this sculpture are three of the five characteristics of Baroque art: motion, a different way of looking at space and the introduction of the concept of time. Michelangelo presented David before the battle, with the tension and emotion evident in every vein and muscle while Bernini depicts David before or after the fight. He shows him in the process of the fight. This represents the element of time in his work. The viewers are forced to complete the action that David has begun for us.
As you can see, the works sculpted by Michelangelo and Bernini differed drastically. Although both of the above artists chose the same subject matter, there are many differences between their sculptures. The first difference is the moment the artist chose to represent. Michelangelo chose to represent David thinking about what he is about to do the moment just before the start of the battle while Bernini chose to represent an event frozen in time suggesting the release of the stone. Bernini’s David is bursting with the same energy that Michelangelo had stored in his figure, however Bernini’s figure implies another figure in our space, Goliath. Both statues are unique and beautiful in their own respect.
1. Sculpture Gallery. Retrieved May 5, 2006 from http://www.sculpturegallery.com/sculpture/david_by_bernini.html.
2. Web Gallery of Art. Retrieved May 5, 2006 from http://www.wga.hu/index1.html.
3. Wikipedia. Retrieved May 5, 2006 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michelangelo’s_David.